The Long Retreat No. 11

Night descended over the forest. The moonlight filtering through the branches was barely enough to stay on track, but Falthejn could hear the flow of the stream now. A few minutes more walking brought them to its bank.

“A cairn is a pile of stones, stacked tall,” Falthejn said. “If you see one, or if you see the others, tell me.”

Sif, baffled, opened her mouth, but no words came. Self-consciously, she closed it.

Falthejn stopped, drawing a three-food circle with the toe of his boot, then adding a few scribbles inside of it. Sif had never had the time or the opportunity to learn to read, but she still thought the letters looked odd. She didn’t think she’d seen any of them before. Finally, she managed, “What are you doing?”

“Finding the way.” Falthejn sat cross-legged, facing the circle, then gave Sif an intent look. “If you think we’re in danger, tap me on the shoulder.”

Sif nodded, and the magiker closed his eyes. Flickers of expression crossed his face every few moments, interrupted now and then by a twitch. Experimentally, Sif crouched across the circle from him and waved her hand back and forth. He didn’t react, and Sif stood. Things seemed to be moving all around her, whispering through the needles carpeting the ground and darting out of her sight. Whenever she looked straight at them, she saw nothing but trees shifting in the breeze and wisps of moonlight filtering through the branches.

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